Monthly Archives: August 2013

Escaping the heat and dust

It is still hot in Selçuk, not quite so hot, but still hot.  Meanwhile post Ramazan and Bayram the street is starting to resemble a building site.  This morning more sand and cement were delivered along wıth machinery.  So during the day it is hot, noisy and very dusty – cement and concrete dust gets absolutely everywhere.

This evening we had a cold beer on the shore of Lake Eğirdir, wıth wonderful scenery and a cool (dust free) breeze.

The Greece Tour 2013

It all started with me asking Hilary what she would like to do for her birthday.  Go to Epidaurus she said.  OK I thought, that is doable, we live in Turkey now, near Izmir, so a combination of ferries to Athens, and then it’s no more than 3 hours, but like all of these things the plan grew and became something far more.

We have been touring in Greece before, a few years back, from London on the Softail Custom, so riding in Greece is not something completely new to us.  Taking a Turkish registered bike out of Turkey (and bringing it back) was a piece of bureaucracy we had not previously attempted.  However, with the extension of our insurance to cover us internationally and the purchase of a Green Card, we found we had no hassle at customs in either country, although the process can be slow.

bbq2The tour started with a run up the coast to Çeşme and a ferry to Chios, where we were met by Evangelos, a biker friend, and escorted to our hotel.  Then back into town for a Name Day celebration involving a vast quantity of grilled pork, beer, and good company.  Still with the Chopper Riders Club of Chios, the following day we were taken out for a tour of the island, along winding roads and through pretty villages full of history, with stops for coffee and pastries, and later for fish on the shore.  Sadly our time on Chios had to come to an end, we had an overnight ferry to Piraeus to catch in the evening.  We will go back to Chios to spend more time with friends and tour more of the island.

Arriving in Piraeus later than scheduled, we had a one hour tour of Athens trying to find the road towards Corinth, not the greatest experience in the world, especially in the heat of July.  It was third or fourth time lucky before we were on our way to Nafplio which we had chosen as a good base from which to visit various nearby places.  This was not the prettiest ride – those would come later, and were to be a surprise for Hilary.   As expected Nafplio was a great place to relax in the evenings, being full of upmarket bars and Tavernas at various price levels, not to mention some excellent ice cream.

Over the next couple of days we rode out to Nemea, Mycenae, Epidaurus, doing the tourist stuff and finding some pretty roads and out of the way places on our travels.  Riding around the area was also a gentle way of getting used to Greek roads which can be marked as highways but are often narrow and beride-to-sparta-14ndy, without the bike loaded up with all our gear.  Our bike is a 2005 Softail Standard, a little modified, K&N air filter, Power Commander, raised bars, custom pipes, and some HD skull items all of which we inherited when we bought it.  We have tidied it up a bit, added iso grips and pegs, and for touring, we have detachable saddlebags and windshield, and a barrel bag, not a great deal of luggage space, but more than enough to get by on.

After relaxation and sight-seeing in Napflio the more serious riding started; 2 up, fully loaded for touring, and the mountain roads of the PeloponneseNaufplio to OlympiaE, from Napflio to Olympia via Tripoli.   Around the bay, then up the side of a mountain, the views getting Naufplio to OlympiaHbetter and better.  Beyond Tripoli the road starts to climb again, passing though impossibly pretty villages on the way.  Then the descent, more pretty villages, often Naufplio-to-OlympiaOperched on the side of mountains, the road down very narrow in places, and not for the fainthearted.  Hilary’s comment when we got to Olympia, “Wow, that was like going over the roof of the world”.  Little did she know, it was going to get even better….

olympia-Hera-templeWe spent a day wandering around Olympia, the site and the museum, then it was back in the saddle.  It was also Hilary’s birthday, so I had picked out a few Olympic-stadium-1places as a potential final destination for the day.  Having good taste, she selected Mythoni, which would have been my choice, right in the south of the Olympia-Hermes-2Peloponnese, and perfect for the plan she was yet to discover.  It was on this leg that I started to feel a satnav would have been a useful investment.  Road signs covered in graffiti are not a lot of use.  Even the signs we could read lacked ‘follow up’, so we got used to starting out in the right direction then missing an essential turning.  The coast road was pleasant enough and Mythoni was charming.  We threw ourselves in the sea, found a decent bar, and a great taverna.

It was at this point I let Hilary in on the plan to ride the road between Kalamata and Sparta that is claimed by some to be the most beautiful road in Greece.  We ride-to-sparta-4set off  the following morning, refreshed and recovered from the excesses of the previous night, to Kalamata, and then into the Taygetus mountains.  Itride-to-sparta-35 is hard to find the words to describe this road.  It would of course have been a lot more fun to ride solo with the bike stripped down, but this was not to be.  I think Hilary got to admire more of the scenery than me, the road was narrow, very narrow in places, exceptionally bendy, and ride-to-sparta-41-(into-tunall too often with no barriers between the road and a cliff.  In places the road has been blasted through solid rock, creating some very interesting tunnels with bends in.   She also got to take the photos as we were going along this exceptional road, through some of the most amazing natural scenery I have ever seen.

We stayed overnight in Gythio, a pleasant enough coastal town, before tackling another mountain road the following day.  Gythio, back to Nafplio, via Leonidio taking us through the Parnonos range.  The mountain road was not quite so spectacular, but then it would have been near impossible to surpass the riding the day before.  Again, up into mountains, through tiny pretty villages, and a stunning ride down a steep valley to the coast at Leonido.   The last leg for the day was the coast road back to Nafplio, an almost endless succession of pretty coastal villages and bays backed by mountains.

Sadly good things we coming to an end, the next evening we were booked onto a ferry back towards home.  We took our time getting back to Piraeus, riding the coast road between Epidaurus and Corinth and catching some good views, but Homewardsnothing could really compare to the riding of the last two days.   By the time we got home, somewhat weary from having to sleep on the deck of an overnight ferry, we’d covered just over 2,000 kilometres.  It was an amazing tour.  Would we do anything different?  Not a lot, pack a few less clothes.  Oh, and Hilary, about that Sat Nav…..

Anaia – a site of many layers

menatwork

A friend managed to arrange for one of the archaeologists working on Anaia to provide a guided tour and we were fortunate enough to be included in the invitation.  The site is a small hill, partly artificial on the coast between Kuşadası and Davutlar, which appears to have been occupied since the bronze age, although at present what is being worked on is a church which originally built in the 5th century and subsequently rebuilt is few hundred years later.  The latest buildings are summer homes – quite a few siteler have been built around the ruins (and probably on top of some of them).  The contrast between the siteler, the shops and beaches and restaurants that service them and the site of the dig is… odd.

Our guide from Ege University was clearly knowledgeable and gave good explanations of what we were seeing, showing us where  more modern walls had been built on older ones, how stone from a Hera temple which lies beneath the church was recycled and used, and pointing out various things of interest.

There was  a whole team of archaeologists there, working on excavation of a smaller chapel and clearly there are plans to work on the site for some years.  It was explained to us that the walls and arches of the crypt had been recently strengthened so that they can excavate down to the floor which is two metres lower than at present.

Kadı Kalesi, which is how the site is generally known, is a much later addition.  The website is very informative and can be viewed in English.

Serpme Kahvaltı

Breakfast-for-four

Despite having been living in Turkey for just over two years now, we had not experienced a traditional ‘village breakfast’…  Well, that’s not strictly true, we did have one somewhere near Assos the year we rode the bike from London to Selçuk.  So, more accurately, we should say we had not had a ‘village breakfast’ since we moved to Turkey.

This morning we headed out with a couple of friends to view Anaia (currently under excavation by a crowd of very friendly archaeologists from Ege University).  We drove back home the pretty way, stopping off at Çoban Belen for tea or coffee.  The serpme kahvaltı, however, looked so good, that we were tempted to stay and indulge.  The view was also pretty good!

view-from-Coban-Belen

Immobilised in Yanıklar

ride-to-sparta-14Our motor cycle has a very handy device called an immobiliser.  This is there to prevent thieves from making off with the bike.  Unfortunately, from time to time, it also prevents us from moving the bike anywhere.

We had pulled into a service station in Yanıklar, a small and as far as we know, unremarkable village about half way between Fethiye and Göcek.  We pulled in to have a short break, stretch our legs and drink water.  We were, at this point, about an hour away from our destination (Koyceğiz, where we intended to stay for the night).  After about ten minutes Ashley clicked the immobiliser button and… Nothing happened.  He moved the bike (sometimes mobile phone masts can interfere with the immobiliser signal).  It made a lot of noise and flashed its lights.  He tried again.  Several times.  The very helpful pump attendant attempted to charge the battery.  We were not convinced you could charge a watch type battery that way but didn’t like to argue.  The immobiliser still failed to work.

Hilary took the battery and caught a dolmuş to Fethiye to attempt to buy a replacement part (and hope that this would make the bike mobile again).  The first few didn’t want to stop but, eventually, she embarked on a three quarter of an hour journey to somewhere near the bus garage.  Then she had to find a place that sold this fairly obscure battery, find her way back to where she could get the dolmuş then get off the dolmuş at the right petrol station.  This was very challenging for someone with no sense of direction who can easily get lost less than five minutes walk from home.

She set off in one direction, asking at some vaguely possible shops.  In the end she got directions to a saatçi (watch mender).  She followed those directions and came across a Curry’s / Computer World.  Where the very helpful assistant explained that they had sold out of the particular type needed but would have one the next day.  Hilary explained about the husband and the bike waiting in Yanıklar and got directions to Bimeks (a local electronics chain).  She understood that it was pretty much opposite the PTT (post office) but, before she found it, she found a saatçi in a little booth.  He threw the example battery to one side, scrabbled about in a box of batteries for some time, then came up with the desired item.  For 5 lira.

Hilary headed back to the place to catch her dolmuş – miraculously she did not get lost (and she passed Bimeks on her way).   Ten minutes and a can of ice tea later, she was on the dolmuş where, after a brief misunderstanding, the driver said he would drop her off at the appropriate garage (she had had the foresight to write down the name).

Back on the forecourt the battery was installed.   Two and a half hours after the problem was noticed, the bike started fine and we were on our way!

And yes, we did get to Koyceğiz in plenty of time to watch the sun set.

Koyegiz-crowds

Swimming with Turtles

Recently we took a short break to Çıralı, a place we had been to before many years ago.   Çıralı has changed, when we were last there it was a sleepy village with three or four pensions, a café on the beach and not a lot else.  Now there are many pensions and hotels, but the village has somehow managed to maintain its sleepy laid back charm.

The beach is fantastic, and a well-known turtle beach.  The nests were clearly marked, dated, and everyone there seemed very respectful of their presence.  At night people are not allowed on the beach and pretty much all development is set well back from the shore.  Çıralı beach is a very good example of how turtles and humans can make use of the same resource.

Phaselis3We took a boat trip to Phaselis, not the cheapest boat trip we have ever taken, but it is a good way t get to Phaselis.  There is a small but nice theatre, and a few other structures, mostly RomaPhaselis1n.  The most interesting parts are the inscriptions, mostly dedicated to athletes, and one to Hadrian.  I never knew that Hadrian was the saviour of the universe.

Phaselis2

We might have spent a bit more time poking around the ruins but when our boat arrived at the south harbour there were Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) swimming there, clearly unbothered by the few boats and bathers present.  I (Ashley) got really lucky, and sorry there are no photographs, our cameras are not the sort that can be used under water.  I got to swim and watch the turtles, at times almost directly beneath me in water less than two metres depth and incredibly clear.  It was a very very wonderful experience.

boattrip1

Would not happen in London

Well apart from having solar water panels which are pretty pointless for most of the year, plenty of hot water in the summer, when hot water is not required very much and very little in the winter….  One morning a week or so ago we noticed that water was flowing out of the top of the solar water unit.  This was cold water and Ashley had a vague idea that there was probably something like a ballcock regulating the water flowing into the system.  So, after a quick hunt for the right business card we phoned a local company that installs, maintains and repairs solar water systems.

We were told someone would be around in half an hour, this turned out to be an hour, but this really was not a big issue.  One of their staff lives across the road and it looked like they timed it to coincide with a tea break.  After being assured there was not an immersion heater in the system, (necessitating a dictionary to ensure we were all talking about the same thing), they drained some water and examined the interior.  Ashley was right, a broken ballcock, not so much broken, but half of it was missing.  This was replaced and everything connected back up.

The work took about 20 minutes.  The bill,  10 lira….  Less that £4.00.

In London.  75 quid call out, then labour, plus parts.  £100 minimum, probably more like £150.00.